GOLF

The hole Phil Mickelson considered the most important in the second round of his PGA Tour Champions career was not any of the eight he birdied but rather the only one on which he made bogey.

He was 5 under after the front nine Tuesday at Ozarks National when he hit driver at the par-4 10th. The ball wound up in such heavy rough that Mickelson couldn’t find it, forcing him to take a penalty stroke. He still wound up making a long putt to salvage bogey, and that gave him some momentum for the rest of the round.

“I was able to get right back to even par on the back side with a birdie on the next hole, and then I made a couple more coming in,” said Mickelson, whose 7-under 64 left him 17 under.

That was good for a four-shot lead over Tim Petrovic and Rod Pampling, who will be his playing partners for the final round.

“I’ve been putting really well,” Mickelson said. “Today I didn’t drive it the way I’ve been driving it. I kind of a hung a few drives, so I’m going to the range and try to work on that now. But when I come out tomorrow I’ll try to be a little bit more aggressive with the driver and see if I can make a few more birdies.”

A few more? He’s already made 19 of them in his first 36 holes.

Playing in the final group and with the shadows getting long, Mickelson picked up right where he left off after his opening-round 61. He made birdie at the third and then rattled off three straight beginning at the par-4 fifth, where he nearly chipped in for eagle.

Petrovic tried to make a run at Mickelson, but even one of his career-low rounds only got him so close. His putter went cold down the stretch and a poor approach at the par-4 finishing hole resulted in bogey.

Mickelson added a birdie at the ninth, the only hole he bogeyed on Monday, after a pretty flop shot over the bunker. After the lost ball at the 10th, Mickelson responded by adding two more birdies.

The second of them at the par-3 12th was a backhanded tap-in. His approach shot barely carried onto the front edge of the green, then nestled up to about an inch from the hole.

Mickelson could still squander the lead in the final round Wednesday, when tee times were moved to the early morning because of expected bad weather in the afternoon. But given the quality of his short game through 36 holes, the more pressing question is whether he could break the PGA Tour Champions’ 54-hole scoring record of 191 – shared by Bruce Fleisher, Loren Roberts, Bernhard Langer, David Frost and Rocco Mediate.

Mickelson, who decided to make his debut on the over-50 tour to continue his U.S. Open prep after he was eliminated from the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, would need to shoot 65 in his final round Wednesday to move atop the list.

Petrovic and Pampling each shot 64-65 over the first two rounds. Rocco Mediate struggled coming in and was at 12 under. K.J. Choi was another shot back, and Steve Stricker and David McKenzie were at 10 under.

TENNIS

WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN: Novak Djokovic’s neck felt much better, and his tennis looked much better, in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over unseeded American Tennys Sandgren at New York that improved the No. 1-ranked man to 20-0 in 2020.

“Actually, I’m pleasantly surprised with the way I recovered and felt today – just overall, physically, but also with the neck, specifically, because that was a little bit of a concern,” said Djokovic, who will be eyeing his 18th Grand Slam title when the U.S. Open begins next week. “Going back four, five days, I did struggle quite a lot.”

This is the first ATP tournament in more than five months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while Djokovic was treated by a trainer and played sluggishly in his opening match Monday, he took control from the outset against Sandgren and saved all four break points he faced.

The Western & Southern Open is usually held in Ohio but was moved to the U.S. Open’s site in Flushing Meadows this year to make for a two-event, no-spectator “bubble” amid the pandemic.

Djokovic will face 34th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals. The other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw will be defending champion Daniil Medvedev against No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 American who is ranked 39th, delivered 19 aces and knocked off 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 7-6 (4). Opelka next meets No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or No. 16 John Isner, whose match was delayed by rain late in the first set Tuesday night.

Also interrupted by the weather was Andy Murray’s match against Milos Raonic. That was to be followed by Serena Williams against Maria Sakkari.

Women’s quarterfinal matchups set earlier in the day were two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka against Anett Kontaveit, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka against Ons Jabeur, and 83rd-ranked American qualifier Jessica Pegula against No. 14 Elise Mertens. Pegula beat No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

SOCCER

BARCELONA: After dozens of titles, hundreds of goals and countless records, Lionel Messi’s spectacular career at Barcelona could be coming to an abrupt end.

Messi told Barcelona he wants to leave after nearly two decades at the club, having grown unhappy after a trophy-less season ended with a humiliating loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Barcelona confirmed to The Associated Press that Messi sent the club a document expressing his desire to leave. But the club hinted that a legal battle could be coming and said it won’t automatically grant the Argentina great his wishes. Barcelona said it told Messi in response that it wants him to stay and finish his career at the club.

MLS: Gustavo Bou and Teal Bunbury scored in the first half, and the New England Revolution beat D.C. United 2-1 in a game delayed 45 minutes because of severe weather.

New England (2-1-4) extended its unbeaten streak to six games. United (1-3-3) is winless in five games and scoreless in its last three.

Bou opened the scoring in the 26th minute after forcing a defensive turnover, taking two touches and sending a shot from distance past goalkeeper Bill Hamid at the near post.

Six minutes later, the match was delayed because of lightning in the area. After the restart, Bunbury headed in a corner kick in the 38th for a 2-0 lead.

Ola Kamara scored on a penalty kick for D.C. United in the 72nd after a handball was called on Alexander Buttner following a video review.


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